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“We need smart exit strategies ahead of second wave in September or October”

Prof Herman Goossens of Antwerp University has warned of the danger of a second wave of coronavirus next September and October.  The microbiologist notes that herd immunity in European countries is poor and suggests smart exit strategies will have to ensure the infection curve remains as low as possible and new corona measures need not be as strict as today. “The next few months will be extremely difficult” he says.

“The infection curve is falling, but not as sharply as we had hoped.  The virus is extremely catchy!” Prof Goossens warns.

The microbiologist is following the herd immunity situation across Europe.  With rates of between 50% and 70% of immunity across the population, herd immunity would provide protection.  But such figures are hardly reached.  If a large group of the population is immune e.g. after having had the virus and having developed antibodies the virus struggles to spread, but we are not there by a long shot.

Results from the Netherlands, Spain, Austria and Italy show that a 5% immunity rate isn’t reached anywhere.  In Valencia, the Spanish region hit hard by the virus, only between 1% and 4% of the population is immune.

Prof Goossens points to pandemics of the last century: “All pandemics experienced a second wave.  I expect a second wave after the summer, in September or October.  Hopefully it won’t be as big as the first wave.”

Equally stringent corona measures may not be needed.

“People are rightly worried about the economic and social psychological impact of a lockdown.  A repeat isn’t realistic.  Psychologically that would be very difficult. In order to avoid such a scenario we need to develop smart exit strategies to keep the curve low.”

Prof Goossens acknowledges that Belgium’s present lockdown “light” can’t be maintained for long.

”We need to move on to different strategies with extremely targeted testing as a central component.”

Extremely targeted testing doesn’t mean testing everybody.

“Even in care homes where there is no outbreak I would test twice a week.  We know people are infectious three days before symptoms materialise.  If the virus enters a care home the impact is devastating.”